Niclas Fasth birdied three and eagled another in his first six holes today before finishing with a 4-under 68 that extended his lead to two strokes entering the final round of the Madeira Island Open.
The 27-year-old Swede, who has led since the first round, led by as much as five strokes midway through his front nine before three bogeys - two in the last five holes - brought him back to the field.
"I played very well. I'm really confident and Sunday is going to be fun," said Fasth, who has four victories on the European Challenge Tour but is looking for his first full tour victory. "I've always felt I could win and this could be it."
Fasth has finished runner-up twice in a regular European tour event, the last at the 1997 Czech Open. His 68 put him at 10-under 206, two shots clear of England's Jim Payne, who also shot 68 and was three ahead of Sweden's Raimo Sjoberg, who shot 70.
"I'll be hard to beat if I play like today," Fasth said.
Fasth had five consecutive 3s starting at No 2, including an eagle at No 3 after hitting a 5 iron to 5 meters (18 feet) and sinking the putt.
Payne, returning from a seven-month layoff due to a thumb injury, had a perfect round with five birdies until bogeying 18.
Raimo, who was at 6-under 210, was followed by four of his countryman.
Henrik Stenson was a shot back 211 after a round of 70, while Richard S Johnson (67), Fredric Henge (70) and Mikael Lundberg (72) all shared fifth another shot back at 212.
For the third day, the 6,166-meter (6,732-yard) Sano da Serra course was bathed in sunshine and devoid of wind.
"But it's a course where you must concentrate on every shot," Payne said. "And you can't be sure of any putt, even from 6 feet, on these greens."
"It's mine to have a go at on Sunday," Payne said.
Pre-tournament favorite Paul McGinley from Ireland saw his hopes fade of a top-3 finish. McGinley's 69 left him 10 shots off the pace and six shots adrift of third at 216.
Leading scores after the third round of the 550,000 euros ($530,510) Madeira Island Open being played over the par-72 6,166-meter (6,732-yard), Santo da Serra course in Madeira:
Niclas Fasth, Sweden 66-72-68-206 Jim Payne, England 71-69-68-208 Raimo Sjoberg, Sweden 71-69-70-210 Henrik Stenson, Sweden 68-73-70-211 Mikael Lundberg, Sweden 69-71-72-212 Fredric Henge, Sweden 71-71-70-212 Richard S Johnson, Sweden 70-75-67-212 John Bickerton, England 70-70-73-213 Diego Borrego, Spain 72-67-74-213 Marcus Brier, Austria 69-70-75-214 Frederic Cupillard, France 70-71-73-214 Daren Lee, England 72-71-71-214 Thomas Gogele, Germany 74-69-71-214 Steen Tinning, Denmark 71-73-70-214 Robert Jan Derksen, Holland 74-70-70-214 Scott Rowe, United States 73-70-71-214 Desmond Terblanche, South Africa 71-74-69-214 Mark Davis, England 73-69-72-214 Peter Lawrie, Ireland 72-72-70-214
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